Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Cultural Learnings of Philadelphia for Make National Champion University of Maryland

By Jonathan Tannenwald

Those of you readers out there who have even a marginal connection to the Philadelphia area know about the rather parochial nature of the sports landscape around here. As such, the presence of two players from this area on Maryland’s roster was a bigger story ahead of the Terrapins’ game against Temple than the fact that the Owls were playing the No. 1-ranked team in the country, or at least that’s how it seemed from this keyboard.

So, playing dutifully to stereotype, this story has nothing to do with the game and everything to do with how Laura Harper, Crystal Langhorne, their families and Maryland coach Brenda Frese saw this quasi-homecoming game for those two players.

(Mel’s recap of the game, which appeared in this morning’s paper, can be read here. It merited the front page of the non-Eagles sports section, which was found a few pages after coverage of the day’s football action. There is also a nice photo slideshow of the game by Inquirer photographer Charles Fox.)

We start with the most obvious thing, which is to note the friends and family Laura and Crystal had among the many Maryland fans in attendance yesterday

“It was fun having everyone come out and watch me play,” said Langhorne, a native of Willingboro, N.J. (Willingboro H.S.) “My old AAU team was here and my parents and AAU coaches “A lot of people don’t get the chance to come and see me play at Maryland.”

Harper, who hails from Elkins Park, Pa. (Cheltenham H.S.), was no stranger to the Temple program, which she followed while growing up.

“I’ve been to the Liacouras Center quite a few times – my dad used to bring me to all the men’s games,” she said. “It’s nice to play here and just to have so much support behind me.”

Haviland Harper, the father in question, played for George Washington from 1973 to 1976 and is now a quite successful boys’ basketball coach at Philadelphia’s Central High School.

“It was a big and she was excited about it,” Haviland said about being able to watch her daughter play this close to home. “I just wanted her to play well – and for Maryland to win.”

Haviland said that Laura had to get “probably at least a dozen” tickets for the Harper party. “She had to get other players get some for her,” he added.

Laura’s mother Maria, who has a brother in graduate school at Maryland, said the game “was awesome – it was exciting, it was exhilarating, it was humbling, too.”

There were only two Langhornes in attendance, father Cryhten and mother Jule.

“It was fantastic to see her almost home,” Cryhten said. “To know that they came out in the end as winners, that was extra gravy.”

Jule said that “the family couldn’t come” because some people were under the weather and others just had too many things to do.

One of those things shouldn’t surprise anyone.

“My son went to the Eagles-Redskins game,” Cryhten said. “He thought this would be a blowout, so he said I’m not coming to this one.”

At least he also got to see a close game.

Indeed, it was a nice coincidence that a team from Maryland was in Philadelphia while a team from Philadelphia was in Maryland.

(The Redskins, though named for Washington, play in a large stadium in the middle of a large parking lot in Landover, Md.)

I asked Frese how she has found recruiting around Philadelphia, and she said there is “absolutely” a lot of talent to be found.

“We’re always going to recruit this area – it’s obviously been very good to us,” she said. “We also feel like the location is great for us here, the fact that it’s a 2 hour ride to campus, to be able to get home so that their family and friends can see them play. So this is an area that we recruit very heavily.”

That got me to thinking about the many sporting personalities over the years who have gone back and forth between Philadelphia in Washington. I came up with what I hope is a reasonably short list of those who have made names for themselves on the collegiate sports scene in recent years.

In football:

Bruce Perry – Philadelphia, Pa. (George Washington)

Brian Westbrook – Fort Washington, Md. (DeMatha H.S.) to Villanova to the Philadelphia Eagles

Derrick Williams – Greenbelt, Md. (Eleanor Roosevelt) to Penn State

Tony Hunt – T.C. Williams (Alexandria, Va.) to Penn State

Jeremy Kapinos – West Springfield (Springfield, Va.) to Penn State

(Not that you Maryland fans need reminding, but Penn State has recruited heavily in the Washington area in recent years and now has 17 players on its roster from the region.)

In basketball:

Gary Williams – Collingswood, N.J. to Maryland, where he is now the head men’s coach

Allen Iverson – Hampton, Va. (Bethel) to Georgetown to the Philadelphia 76ers (at least as of this writing)

David Hawkins – Washington, D.C, (Archbishop Carroll) to Temple

John Bryant – Woodbridge, Va. (Woodbridge) to Saint Joseph’s

Delonte West – Greenbelt, Md. (Eleanor Roosevelt) to Saint Joseph’s

Maureece Rice – Philadelphia, Pa. (Lutheran Christian, where he set a new record for most points scored by a Philadelphia high school player) to George Washington

Noel Wilmore – Philadelphia (Chester) to George Washington

Sean Singletary – Philadelphia (Penn Charter) to Virginia (which is included in the Washington sports landscape)

Jason Cain – Philadelphia (John Bartram) to Virginia

And of course, Dawn Staley – Philadelphia (Dobbins Tech) to Virginia, and now at Temple as the head women’s coach.

I'm sure there are many others I couldn't think of, both from the present and the past. So for the time being, I'll leave the list-making to Mel and get back to my usual behind-the-scenes work.


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